Climeworks: Commercially sucking CO2 from the air!


Surrounded by the beautiful countryside in Hinwil, Switzerland, an expectant crowd waiting in anticipation for what could turn out to be an historic moment for the world. It was on Wednesday 31st May that Jan Wurzbacher and Christoph Gebald of Climeworks took to the stage to launch the world’s first ever commercial carbon capture plant.

This extraordinary innovation has been developed over 10 years, since Wurzbacher and Gebald began their dream as PhD students at EPFL, a university known for fostering innovative startups. Technology to take CO2 from the ambient air has existed previously, but Climeworks have developed a filtering material that makes the process cost effective and therefore commercial.

The Climeworks' plant, the first of many planned, draws the air into a vacuum, where the CO2 is chemically bound to a filter. Once saturated with CO2 the filter is heated up to 100 °C, releasing the CO2, which can then be supplied to customers. Climeworks have positioned their first plant within the vicinity of Kezo, an incineration facility, and use their waste heat to raise the temperature of the filters, meaning no fossil energy needs to be used within the process. The filter, which can be used over thousands of cycles, then releases CO2 free air back into the atmosphere.

The first customer of Climeworks’ CO2, Gebrüder Meier, have their greenhouse, full of cucumbers and tomatoes, right next to the Climeworks plant. The CO2 pumped into the greenhouse, directly from the plant, increases the productivity of the greenhouse by up to 20%. In the first picture you can see the enormous greenhouses at the top of the image, not far from the Climeworks plant.

After speeches from prestigious guests Prof. Dr Lino Guzella, Dr. Yasmine Calisesi, Prod. Dr. Thomas Stocker and Dr. Julio Friedmann, who all steeped praise on the achievements of Gebald and Wurzbacher, as well as talking passionately about the implications of this technology for the future of the world, it was time to launch the plant. The two excited founders took to the stage to press the red button, which sent a drone, with live feed, across to the Climeworks plant. The audience whooped and cheered as the fans began to turn and the CO2 immediately began to be collected, which could be seen on the live stream. The drone then shot back over to the Gebrüder Meier greenhouse, and there were more cheers as the CO2 counter began to increase.

In a time when the climate is on the world’s agenda, especially after Donald Trump announced that he would take America out of the Paris Accord, Climeworks and their CO2 capture plant have caught the attention of the world media. Here in Switzerland, NZZ and Tagesanzeiger, amongst other have covered the Climeworks innovation. Stern and Wired in Germany have both written on Climeworks and in the USA, CNN Tech and the Washington Post have also taken notice.

Climeworks can be part of the solution to climate change. As well as being a commercial operation, Climeworks has a vision of filtering 1% of CO2 from the atmosphere by 2025. Their technology will play an extremely important role in the fight against climate change and enabling countries signed up to the Paris accord to meet their goals.

#Climeworks #parisaccord #environment #climatechange #trump #Switzerland #innovation #CleanFuelNow

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